Guest Explorer: Venetia Wegelin
Venetia finished her studies in Cape Town and headed back to Johannesburg in 2009 where she found herself looking for a passion project. With a heavy family background in food and wine, a fun job became her career and lifestyle and her introduction to the wine industry began. Owner and director at Le Vino Vita (literally, The Wine Life), Venetia has focused her passion into representing top Cape estates for over 10 years and is here to share her top South African Pinot Noirs.
What’s the Big Deal?
With a deep-rooted history in Burgundy and dating back to the first century (that is over 1 000 years older than Cabernet Sauvignon), Pinot Noir was once cultivated by Monks in monasteries. Despite its French history, France is, in fact, the second biggest producer of Pinot Noir in the world, superseded by Germany and followed closely by America.
So what makes this grape so special and unique? This question is largely answered in its production. The most common method during its production includes “whole-berry maceration”, which is very rarely used outside of Pinot. Essentially, this is fermenting on the skins and with the stalks, adding tannin and allowing longevity in the wine (usually used for wines that are cellared for 10 years or more).
Pinot Noir in South Africa
Ranked as the 10th most planted varietal in the world, Pinot Noir remains one of the most misunderstood wines in South Africa. Over the last 10 years or so, there has been a large shift in both the planting and production of this amazing grape in South Africa. While we have been selectively sipping on Pinot Noir’s relative, Chardonnay, we were unaware of the close relationship it has with many other varietals that we are already regularly pouring into our glasses and enjoying.
Pinot Noir is the natural cross relation of Chardonnay and Gouais Blanc, a varietal that is close to extinction. In fact, Pinot Noir is related to all of the Pinots (Gris, Blanc, Noir, Meunier, Noire Précoce and Teinturier) and with so much diversity, it is one of the few wines that is commonly produced into a red, white, rosé and MCC/Champagne.
With so much history and versatility, it’s hard to ignore the intrigue of this beautiful ruby nectar. Below are my top South African Pinot Noirs worth trying out: